Saturday, December 28, 2013

My Favorite Mom Hack!

One day this just came to me. I don't know why I never thought of it before and I couldn't possibly be the first person to ever think of it. It's just so simple and it will BLOW YOUR MIND!

Ok, maybe it won't blow your mind, but it might make you go hmmmm...

Ya know the yucky pieces of end bread? I used to just throw them out. Then one day I thought, why not just put the end pieces on the inside of the sandwich? And it worked! My daughter had no clue!

I tried to take some photos to show an example, but we only had sourdough in the house and it's a little too curved on the ends, but you'll get the idea...
Put the sandwich stuff on the "end bread" they won't have a clue. 
Below is a photo of my daughter with the worst looking peanut butter and jelly sandwich I've ever made. The sourdough clearly doesn't work as well for this mom hack. But you get the idea!
Impress your friends with this fabulous trick! 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Handmade Hanukkah

I decided to start a new tradition in our house for Hanukkah this year. This year I plan to give only homemade gifts, most of which I will make myself.

I don't mind how centered around gifts the holidays are these days. It's just a part of our culture that most of us have embraced or learned to accept. I loves me some good holiday shopping! Perhaps a little too much. I know that isn't what the holidays are about and I try to teach Lilly that it isn't all about the presents.

What I don't like is how greedy everyone is. I don't like the toy commercials and other holiday commercials that imply you are a bad parent if you don't get everything on your greedy little kid's list. Maybe it was different fifty years ago when the holidays were the only time of year when kids would get gifts. But these days people are constantly treating their kids to new toys, clothes, or electronics and finding reasons to justify it. When did this become the norm? It's ok to make a list of things you want for the holidays, but demanding you receive everything your heart desires should definitely land you on the naughty list. Remember YOU ARE NOT A BAD PARENT if you don't get everything on your child's list. Besides if you celebrate Christmas, you don't even get the credit for giving the best gifts. That jerk Santa does. He takes all the credit for all the hard earned money YOU spent and all the time YOU took picking out the perfect gifts while he kicks back sipping hot cocoa and stuffing himself with cookies. 
Above: Enormous Snowmen we made on Christmas Eve a few years ago when we were living in Missouri! This is one of my most favorite family memories :)

Lilly is still little and when we give her a sticker or a pencil she freaks out over it and gets so excited! I want to hold on to this as long as possible and to show her how lucky she is to be getting anything at all. Last year we gave her small gifts each night of Hanukkah. One night she got a candy bar. One night some crayons. One night a little Cinderella Polly pocket toy... I know one day she will see the holiday movies and TV shows, and see what her friends at school are getting and wonder why she too didn't get a power wheels Ferrari and her own 50" flat screen TV, which is why I want to start this tradition now.

To kickoff our Handmade Hanukkah I am going to give a handmade gift every night. In the future I imagine it will slowly dwindle down to one or two nights of handmade gifts. I'm hoping that starting when she is so young will be just the beginning of a meaningful tradition that will help spark her creativity as she creates some gifts of her own and helps her appreciate the time and care we put in to the gifts she receives.

Now I happen to be pretty crafty, which will come in handy, but I know not everyone is. Lilly loves the Disney Junior show Sofia the First. Sofia has an amulet necklace she wears and Lilly has been begging me for one! This is the first gift I plan to make for her. Andy and I have also decided to make her a shutterfly type photo book, but instead of just a photo album, we are writing a story about Lilly and using photos and her own drawings for the illustrations. Lilly also asked for a locket, so I am going to make her one. I just started making hair bows so I think one night I'll give her a few of those as well. I haven't come up with an idea for each of the eight nights yet, but I'm working on it!
Above: Sofia the First inspired amulet necklace I made. You can get it from my Etsy shop, the Banana Boutique

I know everyone isn't as crafty, but there are lots of ways you can start your own handmade gifts tradition. Maybe making and framing a photo collage, painting ceramics at a nearby studio (like Hands On Ceramics in Columbia, MO). Perhaps baking something is the way to go. There is always sewing or knitting... And a whole internet out there full of ideas! Craft stores like Michael's even have classes where you can learn to knit, make jewelry, or decorate cakes.

A few years ago we painted a pie plate together as a family for Andy's grandma. She makes the best apple pie! We personalized it and covered it in Lilly's handprints. When we gave it to her for Christmas she opened it and said "Finally! A gift I can keep!" Everyone else was like "Hey you aren't going to keep my gift!?" We knew what she meant though. That this gift was something extra meaningful. If we are going to take these holidays and make them all about gifts, we may as well make those gifts special and meaningful instead of spending tons of money on more junk we don't need.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Halloween Costumes: The Littlest Disney Cast Member

(Let's not talk about how long it's been since my last post... Yes, a lot has happened since and I have been crazy busy. You'll get to hear about it all... eventually.)

Last year we began an annual Halloween tradition with Lilly. We let Lilly have two costumes. One we get to choose for her for our night at Mickey's Halloween party in Disneyland. For the actual day of Halloween, Lilly can choose to be anything she wants to be. Andy and I are HUGE Disney nerds. HUGE. So each year we do a family theme for Disney's Halloween event and each year we try to make Lilly's costume as unique as possible.

Last year Lilly was a Haunted Mansion Maid, because at the time the Haunted Mansion was her favorite Disney attraction. Andy wore his Nightmare Before Christmas shirt (his costume had to be last minute because he was working so much and traveling a lot around that time) and I made myself a black poodle skirt with Zero (from the Nightmare Before Christmas) on it instead of a poodle!
Last years Haunted Mansion Maid costume. This was the first thing I ever really sewed!
This year I decided to make Lilly a Disneyland tour guide costume and we would be her tour group! This costume was a little easier to pull off. Last year I searched for months for a pattern that resembled the Haunted Mansion cast member costume so I would have to make minimal changes and additions. Then I searched for three solid weeks for a fabric that even slightly resembled the material used in the actual Mansion Maid costumes. That costume was the first real thing I ever sewed! It took twenty hours to make. Ten hours each day slaving over a tiny dress and I loved every minute of it!
Above: The beginnings of the maid costume. I sewed that part entirely by hand before I borrowed a sewing machine!
Below: The finishd product!
Above: the Zero applique I made for my black poodle skirt

This year we sort of waited a while and changed our mind a few times too. First we decided to be Ralph, Vanellope and Felix from Disney's Wreck It Ralph. It was a good thing we changed our minds because one in ten families we saw that night had that very same idea. We chose the tour guide costume because of its nostalgic feel, its simplicity, and because Lilly loves to tell us where to go when we are at Disneyland!

Before I made the costume we made a couple of research trips to the park to check out the details of the tour guides outfits. I learned that the exact plaid pattern used is called "Royal Steward Tartan". I even managed to find a mini version of that same plaid at the craft store! I used a circle skirt pattern I already had for the skirt, but I had to make the vest pattern myself. I used one of Lilly's t-shirts for reference and drew out the pattern on large sheet of butcher paper. Lilly wore my old Disneyland name tag, which we added her name to with a label maker. One of the comments I got most was "How did you make such a realistic looking Disney name tag!?" I almost didn't want to tell them we just used an actual name tag.

I used metallic gold paper to create the big "D" tour guide pin and I painstakingly tried to cover a regular old baseball cap with navy velvet using a glue gun. It did the trick, but up close you could see my shoddy workmanship. Covering a baseball cap with anything is much more difficult than you would think.

Lilly's favorite part of her costume were the shoes. I looked everywhere for reasonably priced black mary-jane shoes in her size, but all I could find were these glittery ones with one inch heels. Heels in toddler size! I kept searching for flat shoes, but the heels were all I could find and Lilly was obsessed with her "grown up girl"shoes, so I figured it was ok. Call me old fashioned, but I think three is too young for heels.
About to cut the"Royal Steward Tartan"  fabric!

We decided to wear retro looking clothes as Lilly's tour group instead of just going in our everyday clothes because getting dressed up is just fun!

Finally it was time to show off our costumes! We did not expect the reaction Lilly's costume received.

First thing we wanted to do was stop off at Guest Relations to get a photo of Lilly with some tour guides because we just though that it would make a cute photo. We didn't even get 20 feet away from the tour booth when they saw us coming. Tour guides came rushing out of booth to see Lilly! They taught Lilly how to stand like a tour guide and posed for photos. Then they took out their phones and took photos of their own! One very lovely tour guide took Lilly's hand and lead her to City Hall so the other Guest Relations cast members could see her costume. All the cast members and managers came flooding out of the back to see. They even gave Lilly a tour guide pin and retractable ID holder that is exclusive to Guest Relations cast members. Lilly loves that ID badge holder so much she slept with it that night! (Until I noticed she was wrapping the string pretty tightly around her fingers, so I took it away to save for her when she is a little older).
Above: Showing off her costume to the tour guides!
Below: Posing like a real tour guide
Above: Heading to City Hall to show off her costume
Below: Lilly receiving her new ID badge holder from a Guest Relations manager
Below: Her new Guest Relations exclusive ID badge holder and pin
For the rest of the night we were stopped every we went. I couldn't believe it! Her Mansion maid costume didn't quite get that same response last year, so I wasn't expecting anything different. Or at least I didn't think it was as popular. One of my proudest moments that night was when Cinderella's stepmother, Lady Tremaine, took me aside after the photo and asked "Does she happen to also have a Haunted Mansion Maid costume?" I was so excited that last years costume made such an impression on Lady Tremaine, she remembered it, and us, an entire year later!

Lots of people asked to take Lilly's photo. I always tell them that they have to ask Lilly if it is ok with her. I'm sure a day will come when she refuses, but for now she loves the attention!
Above: Riding on Winnie the Pooh shortly before it broke down and we had to be evacuated. Lilly was sad, but we pointed out how special it is that she got to see Winnie the Pooh and his bee hive slippers up close and she thought that was very cool.
Below: Lilly made friends with some Mouseketeers!
Above: Cinderella's step sisters and stepmother. Lilly thought they were very funny. Before we left she said to them "My feet like you very much" and Anastasia (left) said it was the best compliment she ever received. My kid is so weird!
Below: Lilly with her tour group in front of It's a Small World.
Below: This will probably end up being our holiday card photo. It's rare we are all dressed so neatly!
We had a great time at the event! We got TONS of candy and saw lots of people in really creative costumes. Now Lilly is working on her costume for actual Halloween. She has changed her mind more than fifty times. Some of her ideas included a tea pot, spider-man, a ghost, a camera, candy corn, and a piece of paper. Yes, for three days she was pretty sure she wanted to be a piece of paper for Halloween. We think she has decided to be a Sleeping Beauty Zombie (pretty creative! I am impressed she thought of that all on her own!) because she hasn't changed her mind for over a week now. We'll see what happens as Halloween gets closer.

Monday, June 10, 2013

You Must Be This Tall To Ride

You must be 46 inches tall to ride the Indiana Jones Adventure at Disneyland. Lilly is still 10 inches too short. Anyone who doesn't meet the height requirement on this attraction may not even wait through the queue with their party. 

I've been reading a lot of complaints online about height requirements at Disneyland, and although I have already written (briefly) about this before, as a mother and former Disneyland cast member at a Disney attraction with one of the tallest minimum height requirements in the park, I am very passionate about this topic.

Now, as a parent you need to understand that a trip to Disneyland is no longer about you. It is about your kids. It sucks you spent $600 to take your family to Disneyland for the day and you won't even be able to ride Space Mountain, but sometimes that is what being a parent is all about. If not riding a big ride is going to be a big deal for you or for your small children, perhaps your once in a lifetime vacation should be put off until everyone is tall enough to ride. Or bring a friend or family member to watch the kids. OR just get a sitter and leave the kids at home. There are several solutions to this problem, if you just come prepared...

If you do want to take that trip to Disney with your little ones anyway, perhaps you should plan ahead. All height requirements for just about every theme park and amusement park in the world are listed on their websites. And it you're reading this you clearly have internet access. To get the most out of your once in a lifetime vacation, do the research before you go! Check height requirements and attraction descriptions, heck, even check out what there will be to eat at the park.

Lilly is just 3.5 inches too short for Splash Mountain. She'll be tall enough before we know it! Before we took this picture I made sure to tell her "Now you aren't tall enough yet, but we just want to see how much longer till you are, ok?" and she didn't get upset.

Checking requirements is only half of it. Measure your kids before you go! Keep in mind that your measuring tape and the parks multiple measuring sticks could always be off by just a little. If your kid is so close it's hard to tell if they will make it, check their shoes and make sure they have on the ones that make them tallest. Some sneakers can add as much as an inch to your child's height and they will always be measured with their shoes on. Tall hair, high ponytails, and hats don't count. Your child will be asked to remove his or her hat or flatten their hair when they are measured.

Now this is going to sound crazy, but one thing I have recently discovered (via google) is that you are actually shorter in the evening than you are in the morning. Sometimes as much as an inch. It has something to do with your spine contracting throughout the day and the longer you are on your feet throughout the day, the more of a difference it can make by the end of the day. You are on your feet a lot over the course of one day at Disney. By the end of the day I often want to tear my feet clean off from the pain of standing on them for so long.  If you have a child that is just tall enough to ride an attraction, it is best to go to that ride first thing in the morning. Don't be surprised if you go back to ride again at the end of the day and your child is turned away. It won't matter to the Cast Member checking their height again if you swear to them your child already went on that ride earlier in the day. But hey, being taller in the morning then at night? Even when it might mean a disappointed child, science is cool.

How to stand when being measured: Have your child put his or her feet together and place them all the way back against the measuring stick. Have their shoulders back and put their chin up and look straight ahead (unlike Lilly here who is looking down). Just be careful they don't smack their head on the post. If kids bumped their heads I used to say to them "Congratulations! You bumped your head and that means you're tall enough to ride!" Some of them still cried though.
Feet together and all the way back against the post. These shoes add almost a whole inch to Lilly's height and they are just regular sneakers.

Disney does have a rider switch program in place to help out parents who both want to ride something their kids might not be able to go on. Just ask them at the entrance to the attraction. One parent waits through the regular queue and then when they're done the other parent can take the rider switch pass through the fast pass entrance or through the exit.
Rider Switch Pass for Sar Tours. Notice at the bottom if even recommends two attractions in the vicinity of Star Tours that have no minimum height requirements? 

You know your kids best. If you think your child might be crushed if they can't ride something or if they might throw a demon like fit, try to avoid that ride altogether. Or set them up for disappointment. Yes, you read that correctly. Tell them you're not planning to ride, you're just going over to see how tall they are or to see how much longer until they can ride. Then if they are tall enough you can ask them if they want to ride it. It will be a happy surprise then, instead of a heart wrenching disappointment.

If you have more than one child and one can ride and the other cannot, consider splitting up for a little while. Don't tell the kids why, because the smaller one might be disappointed.  Just tell them it is their chance to get one parent (or friend, or relative) all to themselves for an hour. This way the taller one can still ride the big rides and the little one won't be disappointed.

YAY! With a 35 inch height requirement, Lilly is tall enough for Gadget's Go Coaster in Toon Town! Unfortunately it was experiencing "operational difficulties" at the time. It happens... Tip: if you end up on the other side of the park and want to find out if an attraction has re-opened after having "operational difficulties" ask any cast member at a different attraction, store, information booth,etc... if they can call and find out for you. That way you don't have to walk all the way back over just to find out it has not yet re-opened.

The worst was when I had to measure twins and one was tall enough and the other was not. Parents would always say "But they're TWINS!" Sorry! Just because they were born two minutes apart does not mean I need to let them both ride if one doesn't meet the height requirement. I have had hundreds of parents get angry with me, scream at me and call me names I'd rather not repeat here. One parent yelled in my face "So I guess you'll be paying for us to come back when she is tall enough?" Uh, sure lady. Just give me your address and I'll send you the oodles of money I get for operating a Disneyland attraction. And then she added "Would you tell a 40 year old midget they couldn't ride!?" The answer is, Absolutely.  It doesn't matter how old you are. If you aren't tall enough to ride, you can't ride. The difference is a little person knows exactly how tall they are and they know the rules. I've never had a little person cause a scene the way many parents have. I have also never actually had to measure a little person because they have either been obviously tall enough, or opted to wait while their party rode without them.

The worst situation I encountered while working was when we had a man tell us he had a gun and if we didn't let his son ride, he would use it. Security escorted him and his son from the park within minutes and I doubt they will be back anytime soon, if ever.

I just don't understand parents. What are they teaching their children? No wonder kids today are instilled with such a sense of entitlement! I know the parents have spent a lot of money to be at Disney, possibly more money than they have ever spent on something for their kids before, and they are hot and tired and don't want to be disappointed or worse, disappoint their insane hellfire screaming demon brat spawn. But, if they just came prepared by measuring their demon spawn and being aware of the rides with minimum height requirements before they got there, maybe they can avoid all of the unpleasantness.

Also, be prepared that kids may have their height checked up to four times while waiting in line. And it is possible they may be turned away just as they reach the front of the line. This doesn't happen often, but if it is particularly busy, a cast member could miss something. Or sometimes parents sneak their kids into the queue. Parents would always tell me "But he already was checked twice!" Does that not give them an idea of how serious we are?

Disneyland takes height requirements very seriously, as they should. Safety always comes first. Height requirements are typically set by ride manufactures and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The parks are given the recommended height requirements and have the option to make them higher. In addition, rides are inspected daily by maintenance workers and periodically by government and state officials and due to changes in laws, safety regulations, or changes to the rides themselves, height requirements can change. When I was three I rode space mountain with my father in Walt Disney World. Currently the height requirement for Space Mountain in Orlando is 44 inches. There is absolutely no way I was 44 inches at the age of two and half. As an adult, I am only 60 inches tall. That would mean I only grew 16 more inches from the time I was just three years old. Case in point, height requirements do change over the years. Even if it isn't your first visit, check the requirements before you go.

It is clearly posted at any attraction with  minimum height requirement that anyone who does not meet that requirement may not ride. There is really no sense in arguing. The sooner you quit being Debbie Downer and accept this fact, the sooner you can get on with your vacation and start enjoying yourself.

There are many reasons height requirements are in place. Guests need to fit securely in their seats. More often than not, it has nothing to do with someone being violently thrown from a ride vehicle, though sometimes that is a possibility if regulations are not followed. A big reason a ride has lap bars, seat belts and harnesses is so that a guest cannot voluntarily slip out of a vehicle and go wondering around on a track. The attraction I worked has a track that emits over 400 volts of electricity. You'd be safer taking a walk on a New York subway rail*. A theme park such as Disneyland is not permitted to operate without a multi-million dollar insurance policy in place. What insurance company would give a park insurance if guests could freely wonder in dangerous areas?

You'd be surprised how many guests think they can just walk onto a track. I once witnessed someone drop their FREE park guide map onto the track in the station (Ya know the one they give out all over the park? The same map you can take, like, 50 of for free and no one will care?) When the vehicle pulled in, he tried to jump back into the track to retrieve it. Luckily we saw him right away and were able to shut things down before he was seriously injured, or even killed (injured or killed over a FREE freaking park map!) Guests think they are in control of their own safety, but around large dangerous and complicated machinery they know nothing about, they should listen to the Cast Members who know what they are talking about and are there to keep them safe not only from the attractions, but clearly from themselves as well. And, FYI, even as a cast member or maintenance worker you can't simply walk out into the track whenever you feel like it. There are procedures put into place to keep us safe in the ride and from ourselves as well.

I guess if you take anything away from this it should be KNOW BEFORE YOU GO. Know how tall your kids are and what the height requirements of the park are. While you're at it, the more research you do on your trip before you leave, the more you will get to experience and the more you will get for your money. Don't be afraid to call before you go as well. There is a lot of information on the internet, but sometimes things just need a little clarification.

For more information or to plan your next Disney vacation check these out:
Disneyland Height Requirements or call (714) 781-0000
Walt Disney World Height Requirements or call (407) 939-5277

*Ummmm....NO. Don't walk on a Subway rail. I said this to make a point, but in fact the NYC Subway system emits higher levels of electricity than the attraction in question.

**While I did research everything in this article, the internet isn't always super reliable, especially when some of my information was gathered from Yahoo Answers and backed up by Wikipedia... 

Everyone is tall enough to meet a Princess! 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Knott's Berry Farm Log Ride Rededication with Charles Phoenix

This week Andy, our friend Joel, Lilly and I got to do something awesome! We got to accompany our friend Charles Phoenix when he hosted the rededication of the Timber Mt. Log Ride at Knott's Berry Farm! We were VIP's and even had some fancy schmancy VIP badges.

Charles is A-MA-ZING! He knows everything about Knott's history and was hilarious and just a delight to watch while hosting the rededication. He even had a special suit made with boysenberries all over for this special day. Boysenberries are the signature berry of Knott's when it was still an actual berry farm and are what put them on the map! I learned so much about this historic theme park, its founders, and the log ride this week.

The log ride had been closed for several months while they gave it some much needed updating. Previously the ride had not had any type of major overhal since it first opened in 1969. They added lots of new animatronics made by the same company that constructs rides and audio animatronics for some famous Disney attractions.

While at the rededication I also got to connect with a fellow former Disneyland Cast Member who now works at Knott's! It was great to see her and interesting to learn some of the ins and outs of a theme park that isn't Disneyland. I liked getting to see what a tight knit community the employees of Knotts have. That "everyone knows everyone" dynamic really creates a charming small town atmosphere within the park.

The next best part about the event was that VIP's were treated to a glorious free lunch of hamburgers, fries, and delicious milkshakes. I live for free lunch. I think I ended up with not one, but two milkshakes. Well my first milkshake was stolen and then finished by Lilly, so just one and half milkshakes, I guess. Still more milkshakes than anyone should be consuming.

The only real disappointment of the day was that the log ride unfortunately was not ready in time. I cannot wait to go back to Knott's. Lilly is actually tall enough to ride the log ride and I think she will love it!

First Charles hosts the grand opening of new rides at the Knott's Boardwalk. Check out his AMAZING boysenberry suit!
Lilly and I enjoying the rededication ceremony
Charles making the crowd go WILD at the Timber Mountain Log Ride rededication ceremony!
Charles with Ethan Wayne (son of John Wayne). Ethan was there with his dad when the ride first opened in 1969! 
Andy and Charles IN the log ride track! Hopefully it will be ready for us to test out on our next visit.
Lilly and Joel are totally in sync. 
I am now the proud owner of 100 fake shares of the Calico Logging Co.
I am in LOVE with the fact that my shoes match Charles' suit!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

I'm Afraid I just Blue Myself

Andy and I planned to get together with some friends to watch the newest season of Arrested Development last weekend. Last minute I decided it needed to be themed! Here are some photos of the themeyness. Everything is homemade because I didn't have a lot of time to make it come together.

Re-watching the series first! Above the TV is my homemade Arrested Development sign and Tobias' blue handprints.
Making frozen Bananas
More frozen bananas in progress!
The food
The "Menu"
Tobias Funke mustache straws
Candy Beans
Finished frozen Bananas
Front Door Sign
More decor!
Watching the new season!